By Tessa Raebeck
The Sag Harbor Board of Education (BOE) voted in favor of continuing the district’s insurance plan, including the optional, supplemental student accident insurance, at a special meeting June 24.
The final vote was tallied at four to two in favor of keeping the student accident insurance, which is carried by Chartis.
Board members Mary Anne Miller and David Diskin voted against continuing the student accident policy. Unlike liability insurance, which covers student injuries that happen due to district negligence, state law does not mandate coverage for student accidents.
Due to budget concerns, the district voted to cancel the student accident insurance for the 2011 to 2012 school year. The board reinstated it in March 2012, following complaints from district parents and several board members.
At the board meeting June 17, John O’Keefe, the school business administrator, recommended continuing the insurance, which expires June 30.
The student accident insurance for the 2013 to 2014 school year will cost the district $47,622, an increase of 2.53 percent from the $46,448 cost of the 2012 to 2013 school year.
“The existing carrier came in far below every other carrier,” said O’Keefe.
The insurance is secondary to students’ own health insurance coverage. It carries a $250 deductible and up to $1 million in catastrophic coverage.
Miller raised the issue of student accident insurance several times during the budget-planning season, “with the hope that the district would start to look at alternatives for delivering this type of coverage,” she said.
“I look at it like this,” said BOE member Sandra Kruel, a strong supporter of student accident insurance. “We are the landlord of the biggest house in the town and, being so, it is our responsibility to be properly insured.”
“There’s a policy called accidental insurance, which every other school district on Eastern Long Island has and pays for through their budget, except for Sag Harbor last year,” said Kruel.
Miller had discussed suspending the plan with the board several years ago, because “families who were inclined to use it were becoming frustrated because it wasn’t paying what they thought it should.”
“I was hoping to perhaps further investigate a parent-pay type of plan delivery, which are offered all over the country,” said Miller. “I understand that it is a very big sort of transition and a bit of a culture change, but I see it as an option that the district could try.”
Both Diskin and Miller hoped to look into a plan that would offer similar coverage at a reasonable — and, ideally, lower — price, but would put the expense on parents rather than the district.
“I feel like this is something that perhaps the parent could actually fund directly with an insurance company,” said Miller. “Even though we’re spending almost $50,000, every family still has a $250 out-of-pocket expense. Whereas, one of the plans that we looked at last year was, I think, $95 per student for the medium to high level plan coverage and there was $0 deductible.”
“As far as the $250 deductible,” said Kruel. “Because I had insurance and this became my secondary insurance, when my son was hurt, I did not have the $250 deductible. The $250 deductible is only for the parent who has no other insurance in place.”
Miller proposed creating “some sort of an anonymous fund through one of our not-for-profit organizations” to help families “who might not be able to afford the premium for the parent pay.”
The board members who supported continuing the insurance expressed the need for legal protection in the event of an accident.
Without accident insurance, “you have to prove liability,” said Kruel. “So we’re saving $36 per student to get sued?”
The supplemental student accident insurance, along with the overall plan, will go into effect July 1. The next school board meeting will be held the same day at 7:30 p.m. in the Pierson Middle/High School library.